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Earthquake rips Nepal, hundreds dead

Kathmandu Struck By Powerful EarthquakeKATHMANDU: The death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday has risen to 876, a police official told AFP.
The quake measuring 7.9 is the strongest to hit the country in 81 years.

“The toll from the earthquake has jumped to 876, including 524 from the Kathmandu valley,” police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told AFP.

“Rescue efforts are still underway. We fear that the toll might rise as we dig through the rubble.”

Many parts of the country experienced aftershocks after the earthquake that had its epicentre at Gorkha, 140 km west of Kathmandu.

India’s Home secretary LC Goyal said 34 people were killed in the country.

“Information is still pouring in. Twenty-three people have been killed in Bihar, eight in Uttar Pradesh and three in West Bengal,” he said.

India despatched 10 teams from its National Disaster Response Force to Nepal for relief operations.

“Twenty-nine of the country’s 75 districts have been affected by the quake,” said Nepal Home ministry spokesperson Laxmi Prasad Dhakal. Authorities declared an emergency in all the affected districts.

nepalquakeThe highest casualties were registered in Kathmandu (181), followed by Bhaktapur (144) and Lalitpur (66). Kavre and Sindhupalchowk districts recorded 116 deaths.

Eighteen people were killed and several injured at the base camp of Mount Everest. Hundreds of climbers were at the base camp to prepare for their ascent next month. An 11-member mountaineering team from Assam at the camp was unharmed.

External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted one person was killed when a house collapsed within the Indian embassy compound in Kathmandu.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) initially said the temblor measured 7.7 but later upgraded it to 7.9-magnitude. It said the quake hit at 11:56 am local time (0611 GMT) at a shallow depth of 15 km.

“The epicentre of the first quake was Bartak in Gorkha district. It took place at 11:56 am. There have been 10 major aftershocks measuring over 5 in the next two and half hours,” said Lok Bijaya Adhikari, chief of the National Seismological Centre.

Two major aftershocks, one measuring 6.6 and another 5.8, hit Gorkha and Rasuwa within 40 minutes of the quake.

Many houses were damaged in Kathmandu and its sister towns Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. There were reports of damage from many other parts of the country though details were sketchy.

“The quake resulted in connectivity problems for the initial 30 to 40 minutess and therefore there was a problem in getting information. We are now receiving reports of damage from many places,” said Nepal Police spokesperson Kamal Singh Bam.

Many people refused to return to their homes in Kathmandu Valley and other places because of the aftershocks.

Educational institutions and offices were closed since Saturday is a weekly off in Nepal. Authorities said the casualties could have been higher if it was a working day and the quake had hit at night.

“The aftershocks are likely to continue for two to three more days as the accumulated energy that resulted in the quake gets fully released,” said Adhikari.

Nepal’s information minister Minendra Rijal told NDTV channel that there were reports of damage in and around Kathmandu and rescue teams were on the scene.

Footage from Nepal’s Kantipur TV channel showed Nepalese soldiers digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings with their hands and people rushing the injured to hospital.

The nine-storey Dharahara Tower, a popular attraction in Kathmandu, collapsed and up to 50 people were believed to buried in its rubble. Several old temples also collapsed.

Nepal’s national radio warned people to stay outdoors because more aftershocks were expected.

The old quarters of Kathmandu is a warren of tightly packed, narrow lanes with poorly constructed homes. Nepal’s lack of disaster preparedness, the decrepit buildings packed along lanes and large families who live in these homes make a major earthquake a serious concern.

Tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi and other northern and eastern cities in India, including Lucknow, Bhopal, Kolkata and Guwahati.

At most places, the tremors reportedly lasted between 45 seconds and one minute. The quake also jolted the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

“We are in the process of finding more information and are working to reach out to those affected, both at home & in Nepal,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

In Delhi, people came running out of buildings when the jolts were felt around 11.40am. The tremors lasted almost 45 seconds. An aftershock was felt after 30 minutes.  – Compiled by Agencies/Hindustan Times

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